October 29, 2015

Cinemascope: Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Join author and distinguished history professor Jonathan Phillips of Royal Holloway, University of London, as he takes viewers on a spectacular and dramatic twelve thousand mile journey of a lifetime, traveling the ancient roads to the very places where Christianity began. Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine is a captivating adventure through four centuries and seven countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

This six hour PBS series is an informative and fascinating journey into the early history of Christianity. It does not matter where you are religious or not, this is the way history should be taught. Oh, the dots I connected with this one.

You can see the series trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

October 26, 2015

Recent Reads

119. The Green Road
Book blurb: Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.

This is the fourth book I've attempted to read from the 2015 Man Booker Longlist, and I'm happy to report that while I did not love it, I did make it all the way to the end. 

This family story is narrated from the point of view of the various members, and as with most families, I found certain characters more interesting than others. And like most families, some members get way more air time than others. 

I've got a couple of bones to pick with the style of writing in this book. For one, I'm not a fan of third person narratives as, unless superbly done, they create a distance from the characters for me. Also there is something about the flow of the writing that kept pulling me out of the story. At no time did I feel like I was immersed in the story - I was constantly aware of the fact that I was reading a book. On the plus side, there are scenes, conversations, and settings that the author captures brilliantly, and those gems are really what kept me reading on. 

This is the second book I've read by the author, and like the previous one, I have to confess that this is not a story that I connected with, and it will not stay with me. But those gems, oh so wonderfully sparkly. I'd give this one 2.5 stars, and will round up for those gems. Rating: 3 stars.

120. The Three Incestuous Sisters
Think of this book as a picture book for adults. 

Once upon a time there were three sisters: one beautiful, one smart, and one talented. And as with all fairy tales, they live happily together until a boy arrives. Then all hell breaks loose, and there is a whirlwind of love, jealousy, sabotage, revenge, and despair. Will women never learn? Sigh.

The text is very simple, but the art is quite wonderful and evocative. You could spend quite a long time simply looking at the art in this book and making up stories of your own. I liked this strangely disturbing story. Rating: 3 stars.

121. On Immunity
I listened to the audiobook, which was well narrated by Tamara Marston.

This is not the book I expected to read. I expected a historical look at vaccines, past, present, and future, and that is not what I got. It is a collection of essays chock-full of the bricolage the author found during her clearly extensive research on the subject. While some of the bricolage was indeed interesting, I wish an editor had taken out some of the tangents, and created more of a logical structure to this one. It could be that these tangents would be applicable to parents, but since I am not one I can only assume that is the case.

The book starts out in the manner I expected, and then veered into what one might title " A Mother's Search for Peace of Mind." Still I learned things and connected several dots, so this was certainly worth a read as it is a good introduction to the topic. I'll be looking for other books that cover the history I was in search of, so if you know of a good one please do let me know. Rating: 3 stars.

122. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol.2: Fandemonium
This volume collects issues #6-11.

The art in this second volume continues to be fab, but the story line, while a bit better than the previous volume, is still not sufficiently developed. Maybe twelve gods is simply too much to deal with? This installment tries to solve the murder mystery created in the first one, and has some interesting twists. All I can say is be careful what you wish for, and everyone is not what they seem.
C'mon writers of this series, take it up a notch and execute on this vision. Rating: 3 stars. 

October 23, 2015

CY 365 Update

If you are regular reader of this blog, you might be wondering if I've quit on the CY 365 project. Absotutely not. I'm no quitter. I still post daily to my Instagram account, but have decided to not re-post those entries here are well. So, if you want to follow along, you can see what I'm up to here.

October 22, 2015

Cinemascope: Poldark (Season 1)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: It's 1783, and Ross Poldark has returned home from the American Revolutionary War to find England in the grip of recession and his beloved Cornwall on its knees. His father is dead, his family's land and copper mines are in ruins, and his childhood sweetheart is about to marry his first cousin. Feeling betrayed by everything he loves, Ross must rebuild his life, embarking on a risky business venture, facing new adversaries, and finding love where he least expects it. Based on the novels by Winston Graham and set against the dramatic Cornish coastline, this striking saga stars Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) as Ross Poldark, and Eleanor Tomlinson (Death Comes to Pemberley) as the fiery Demelza

If you a fan of period pieces, and sagas set in England (I'm talking to you Downton Abby fans), try this BBC series. There are good guys, wonderfully bad guys, and some merely stupid guys you really want to kick in the shins.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

October 19, 2015

Recent Reads

116. Devil's Peak (Benny Griessel #1)
Book blurb: A young woman makes a terrible confession to a priest. An honorable man takes his own revenge for an unspeakable tragedy. An aging inspector tries to get himself sober while taking on the most difficult case of his career. From this beginning, Deon Meyer weaves a story of astonishing complexity and suspense, as Inspector Benny Griessel faces off against a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy. 

This is the first of five books in the Benny Griessel series, and the second book I've read by the author. I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Simon Vance. 

The story is set in South Africa, and unfolds via three narrators: Christine the prostitute, Bennie Griessel the cop, and Tobela Mpayipheli the man who decides to set right some of the wrongs of this world. And you just know that their worlds will collide one day. The writing is really good, the sense of place wonderful, and the characters are fully fleshed out. I quite liked some of the themes this story explores: What does justice look like? Are there some crimes that can be forgiven, encouraged even? People have an idea of who they will be, so how do they lose their way?

I really enjoyed the author's skill at spinning an interesting yarn, and I've already picked up the rest of the series. Rating: 4 stars.

117. The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present
Book blurb: A highly provocative, mindbending, beautifully designed, and visionary look at the landscape of our rapidly evolving digital era.

Okay, let me try to talk about this one: It is a little book with text and graphics. It can be read in one sitting, but I decided to do it in two. Each double page spread or two could be used to spark very interesting dinner conversations. You could start reading this book at any page, but I'd suggest for the first read through that you read it front to back. There are things in this one that gave me pause, and really made me think. I will be reading this one again.

Honestly people, I not sure how to even describe this book, but I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy pronto.  Rating: 4 stars.

118. The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes #5)
Ah, Sherlock Holmes. I have yet to read the series; in fact this is only the second book in the series I've read. Not sure why. I enjoy his stories immensely - but there you go, I think I just hit the nail on the head - they are indeed stories. Not a huge fan of short stories. But every now and then I find myself in the mood to indulge, and when this story won the 2015 Audies for Audio Drama, that decided it.

I'm sure you all know the story, so I won't summarize it. This full cast production by the L.A. Theatre Works is wonderful. I had a delightful time listening to this story read by Geoffrey Arend, Wilson Bethel, Seamus Dever, Sarah Drew, Henri Lubatti, James Marsters, Christopher Neame, Moira Quirk, and Darren Richardson. 

I have no doubt that there will be more Holmes in my future, and if you have yet to read this one, or even if you have, give yourself the gift of a couple of fun hours listening to this production. Rating: 4 stars.

October 15, 2015

Cinemascope: Death Comes to Pemberley

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: Masterpiece Mystery!: Death Comes to Pemberley It is the eve of the Darcys' annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley estate. Darcy and Elizabeth, now six years married, are relaxing with their guests after supper when the festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. A scream calls them to the window and a hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out of a carriage shrieking, "Murder!" What follows is the somber discovery of a dead man in Pemberley woods, a brother accused of murder, and the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to engulf Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear. Adapted from P.D. James clever whodunit, this delicious homage to Jane Austen s beloved Pride and Prejudice stars Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife), and Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). Elizabeth and Darcy never knew marriage would be like this! 

I have yet to read the book this is based on, but have read and loved Pride and Prejudice. If you loved P&P as well, you'll probably enjoying spending a bit more time with the old gang. So fun.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

October 12, 2015

Recent Reads

112. Wytches, Vol. 1
Book Blurb: When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they're hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient...and hungry. Collects Wytches #1-6.

I really liked the illustration style used in this horror graphic novel - there is something about paint spatters in the back ground that add to the effect of layers. And this story is about layers - layers of lies, of secrets, of horror, of love. You know those dreams where you know there is something horrible, but you can only catch glimpses of it? The wytches are depicted in a similar manner - your eyes try to see clearly what is on the page, but your mind refuses to co-operate. And the dad in this story - I love the dad. 

"Pledged is pledged." I'm very interested to see where this story goes. Rating: 4 stars.

113. The Girl with All the Gifts
This genre book is best read with as little foreknowledge as possible. Unfortunately, I already knew a key piece of the story's reveal, so it did not have that extra punch for me.

I loved the premise of this story, and it starts out wonderfully. The reader only knows things as 10 year old Melanie reveals them, and unlike her we know that things are not normal. But after that great start, the story is unfocused, plodding, and frankly boring. The characters are not well developed, the dialog is stilted, and the pacing of the story is jerky at best. After I finished the novel, I read that the author is best known for his graphic novel work, and things suddenly fell in to place. At no time while reading this novel did I drop into the story - it was almost like I was reading the text of a graphic novel and was missing the illustrations that completed the picture. 

I loved the twist of seeing this genre story told through Melanie's point of view, but there was just not enough in this one for my tastes. I would love to see a graphic novel adaptation of this book. Rating: 2 stars.

114. The Leviathan Effect
Don't you just hate when you settle in with a pot of tea and a new book and the book lets you down? I was in the mood for a thriller, a fast paced story that would keep me turning the pages, but this was not it. It should have been. It's got a great premise, but I simply do not understand all the rave reviews. Color me not thrilled. I was bored and bailed on page 42. Rating: 1 star.

115. The Wake
This graphic novel is like none I have read before. It is not an easy read, but so worth the effort.

There are two story lines, separated by two hundred years or so. I am not sure what genre this belongs in, there are so many covered, but maybe the overarching genre is a dystopian one. The art is strangely compelling, and fits wonderfully with this fairytale/monster story. I loved that the protagonists of both story lines were women - Dr. Lee Archer and Leeward, and the myths/folklore/ancient stories interspersed in the story delighted me. 

The story reaches for the stars, and while it might not get there completely, it comes so, so close. Rating: 4 stars.

October 10, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert & Marie Forleo on Fear, Authenticity and Big Magic (Video)

Elizabeth Gilbert's new book is out, and I for one cannot wait to dive in. Here is a fun and inspiring interview she did recently.

Listen in as Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo talk perfectionism, why you shouldn’t strive to be fearless, and unpack the keys to living your most creative life. Don’t miss this Big Magic episode, it’s one of my all-time favorites!

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 8, 2015

Cinemascope: John Rabe

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2009.

Plot line: Based on actual events, John Rabe tells the story of a German businessman who rescued more than 200,000 Chinese during the Nanking Massacre in China by courageously negotiating a safety zone to protect innocent civilians from the Japanese Army. Drawing from John Rabe's 1937 diaries as source material, Academy Award® Winner Florian Gallenberger has crafted a portrait of a man revered as a saint in China to this day and yet never rewarded for his courage during his lifetime. 

I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about John Rabe, so was delighted to find this movie. It is set during the Nanking Massacre, so do not expect any laughs. I appreciated learning about this piece of history, and there is a certain kind of irony in a member of the Nazi party saving so many people. Tough to watch, but well worth it.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

October 7, 2015

Taiye Selasi: Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local (Video)

You know how things all align sometimes? Well, look at what I found while listening to my current fave book.

When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. "How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?"

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 5, 2015

Recent Reads

109. Satin Island
Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #1. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

This one started out nicely - a little navel gazing, but interesting, and then it just got boring. Several reviewers have said that it is all worth it in the end, but after about 50 pages, I'm bowing out. Just do not care enough to continue.  Rating: 1 star.

Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #3. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

I had such hopes that this one would break my horrible streak with the books on this list. And it started out so well. I loved the first chapter - the women, the writing - wonderful. And then. I turned the page to chapter two, and I honestly did not even understand much of what was being said, even though it seemed to be beautifully written. Here I go again. 50 pages and I'm out.

So what do I do now? The first three books I tried were by men, and maybe I'll have better luck with the women authors. Pretty please, with my fingers crossed for luck. Rating: 1 star.

I am at a loss as to how to rate this book. Let me explain. I have no doubt that if I had read the print version of the book that I would not have finished it. I would probably have quit about a third of the way through. Maybe sooner. So I'm glad that I decided to listen to the audiobook, and I cannot begin to describe what a fun experience that has been for the past week or so. Lenny Henry narrates, and this guy is simply brilliant.

I love Neil Gaiman, but continue to find that I love his graphic novels way better than I like his novels. It's not that his novels are bad, it's just that I think I might not be the right audience for them. But I do love his quirky writing, so keep searching for the one novel of his that will blow my socks off. The search continues.

This is the story of Fat Charlie. It is a fairy tale, a mythological story, one of magical realism, and humor. It is peppered with some wonderfully idiosyncratic characters, and dialogue that made me smile and chuckle in places. This is the kind of story that the travelling story tellers of old would tell as they made their way from village to village. Classic Gaiman in other words.

Since this site reviews book and not the audio production, I'm going to go with 3 stars, but would give Lenny Henry a solid 5 stars for his narration. Rating: 3 stars.

October 3, 2015

BJ Miller: What really matters at the end of life (Video)

Here is a talk I found both moving and inspiring this week.

At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician at Zen Hospice Project who thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients. Take the time to savor this moving talk, which asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 1, 2015

Cinemascope: Liberal Arts

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2012.

Plot line: When Jesse, a 35-year-old New York college admissions adviser, is invited to his Midwestern alma mater to attend his favorite professor's retirement dinner, he quickly falls back in love with the university life. But when he meets 19-year-old student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene , Peace, Love and Misunderstanding), the bright, beautiful, book-loving daughter of his professor's friends, he suddenly finds himself caught in a moral dilemma: does he pursue a relationship with this kindred spirit, or does he break her heart and return to the "real world?" 

If you love books, then you'll enjoy this fun exploration of this relationship between two readers.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.